Local churches collect donations for global Christmas project

Published 7:40 am Thursday, November 7, 2013

Samaritan’s Purse has collected more than 100 million shoeboxes for children in need over the last 20 years. Photo courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse.

Samaritan’s Purse has collected more than 100 million shoeboxes for children in need over the last 20 years. Photo courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse.

Two local churches are dedicating their time and space to collect shoeboxes for needy children.

Sister Lakes Community Church in Dowagiac and Niles Seventh Day Adventist School in Niles will serve as a collection location for Operation Christmas Child during National Collection Week (Nov. 18-25).

“It’s a project of Samaritan’s Purse where we send shoeboxes filled with toys, hygiene items and school supplies to children who have never received any kind of gift at all,” said Bill Burger, Area Coordinator of Operation Christmas Child.

Since its implementation in 1993, Samaritan’s Purse, run by Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, has collected and delivered more than 100 million shoebox gifts to suffering children in more than 100 countries. For their 20th year of service, Samaritan’s Purse hopes to collect another 9.8 million shoeboxes worldwide.

“(Operation Christmas Child) is a way of expressing our love for the kids, and also present them with the gospel,” Burger said. “Our main intent is to satisfy the physical needs of the children first, and then also attend to their spiritual needs, too.”

Samaritan’s Purse invites children receiving shoeboxes to attend a 12-week discipleship course taught by Sunday School teachers in 65 different languages.

“When (the children) go through the 12 weeks, they have a graduation ceremony. They’re presented a Bible in their own language to help with continuing their faith,” Burger said.

Volunteers from all over the world travel to countries to hand out the gifts and provide the discipleship course.

“I was in Uganda in Africa this last year on a distribution trip. We visited 36 different churches during the time that we were there handing out about 5,000 boxes,” Burger said.

Burger suggested several common items that could be put in the shoeboxes including toothbrushes, combs, pencils, crayons and paper.

“It’s really whatever people want to put in. There’s no specific list of items that has to go in each box,” Burger said. “We sometimes suggest they put in t-shirts, socks, gloves, hats, that kind of thing. Whatever would fit in a shoebox. We also send some toys with it so they have something to play with and that kind of thing.”

Though shoebox gifts often travel thousands of miles out of the community, Operation Christmas Child gives donors the opportunity to follow their box by using the donation form found at samaritanspurse.org.

“Niles has a big collection center for what we call the Michiana area, which includes up to LaPorte. We have two collection centers. One is in Niles where they process about 15,000 boxes, and we have a second collection area in Chesterton, Ind.,” Burger said.

Those interested in donating shoeboxes can drop off their boxes at Sister Lakes Community Church, located at 67119 SR 152 in Dowagiac, or Niles Seventh Day Adventist School, located at 110 N. Fairview Ave. in Niles.

Burger said the amount of people who contribute to this project surprises him every year.

“It took us 20 years to collect 100 million shoeboxes,” said Burger. “Somehow I don’t think it will take us that long to collect another 100 million.”